Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is “continuing to edge forward” in a multi-year restructuring, ringing up a fourth-quarter profit of $188 million, rising from $40 million a year ago as sales increased 11 per cent, largely because of calendar effects.

Canada’s biggest supermarket operator, recovering from a troubled revamp of its distribution facilities, said yesterday its full-year profit grew 65 per cent to $545 million, or $1.99 per share, on sales of $30.8 billion. This compared with 2007 net income of $330 million, $1.20 per share, on sales of $29.38 billion.

The profit in the 13 weeks ended Jan. 3 was worth 69 cents per share, up from 14 cents per share a year earlier. The latest quarter benefited from $47 million in one-time gains, versus $88 million in non-recurring charges in the year-ago period.

Quarterly sales rose to $7.75 billion from $6.97 billion. There was one more selling week in the most recent quarter, which boosted the top line by 7.9 per cent, and there was a further 0.8 per cent sales benefit from the shift of the Thanksgiving holiday into the fourth quarter.

While acknowledging the solid results, chairman Galen Weston added: “We need to build more consistency into our execution,” and “given the unpredictable economy and tough competitive environment, we are prepared for a challenging 2009.”